‘This child is destined for the fall and the rising of many’
The Feast of the Holy Family (Year B)
The Presentation at the Temple is of profound significance, signalling the willingness of Jesus to do the will of the Father. Fr Adrian Graffy reflects.
22 When the day came for them to be purified as laid down by the Law of Moses, the parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord – 23 observing what stands written in the law of the Lord: Every first-born male must be consecrated to the Lord – 24 and also to offer in sacrifice, in accordance with what is said in the Law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.
25 Now in Jerusalem there was a man named Simeon. He was an upright and devout man; he looked forward to Israel’s comforting and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until he had set eyes on the Christ of the Lord. 27 Prompted by the Spirit he came to the Temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the Law required, 28 he took him into his arms and blessed God; and he said: 29 ‘Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace, just as you promised; 30 because my eyes have seen the salvation 31 which you have prepared for all the nations to see, 32 a light to enlighten the pagans and the glory of your people Israel.’
33 As the child’s father and mother stood there wondering at the things that were being said about him, 34 Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – 35 and a sword will pierce your own soul too – so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.’
Other readings: Ecclesiasticus 3:2-6,12-14 Psalm 127 (128) Colossians 3:12-21
What is given above is a shortened version of the gospel reading. You are invited to read the remaining verses (36-40) in your own Bibles.
The Presentation in the Temple has a profound significance. Jesus, the Son of God, obeys the Law of God as he is presented in the Temple by Mary and Joseph. His parents are faithful Jews, who abide by the religious laws of the time. This first entry of the Son of God into the house of God speaks of his willingness to do the will of the Father.
The old man Simeon is inspired by the Holy Spirit to speak about the child, and about his mother. Simeon points to Jesus as the fulfilment of the hopes and longings of his own people, and of all peoples. He is to be the ‘glory of Israel’, but also a ‘light for the nations’. Simeon tells Mary that the child is to be ‘a sign of contradiction’. We can accept or reject him. Mary, who said her generous ‘Yes’ to God, will be drawn into the suffering of her Son.
What does this gospel tell us about the coming of Jesus?
What does this gospel tell us about the role of parents?
Let us pray for all parents, that they will lead their children in goodness and truth.
Let us ask for understanding of the place of suffering in Christian life.
Rev Dr Adrian Graffy is a member of the Vatican Commission that takes a lead in Bible scholarship, interpretation and promotion in the Catholic Church.
Rev Dr Graffy said of his five-year appointment by Pope Francis in 2014: “It is an honour to be nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I feel humbled and very much look forward to being of service to His Holiness and the Church.”
He added: “A great deal has been achieved in England and Wales in recent years by many co-workers to advance Biblical scholarship and the provision of easy-to-use resources. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for their efforts to promote understanding and love of the Bible, particularly through the publication of the teaching documents, The Gift of Scripture and the study guide to Verbum Domini, The Word of the Lord.”
Rev Dr Graffy received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1983. He taught for over 20 years in St John’s Seminary in Wonersh, and is Chair of the National Scripture Working Group, which is an instrument of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Fr Graffy is a past director of Brentwood’s Commission for Evangelisation and Formation and parish priest of Christ the Eternal High Priest in Gidea Park, Essex. Among his publications are the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Romans (Alive Publishing).
Listen to BBC Essex interview with Fr Adrian Graffy